Passive crowd-sourced map updates and alternate route recommendations

- Waldeck Technology, LLC

Systems and methods for providing passive crowd-sourced alternate route recommendations. In one embodiment, locations of users of a number of mobile location-aware devices are tracked over time. Upon receiving a request, users of mobile location-aware devices that have traveled from a desired start location to a desired stop location are identified. Location histories for the identified users are analyzed to determine one or more different routes taken from the desired start location to the desired stop location. The one or more different routes, or a select subset thereof, are then returned to the requestor as recommended alternate routes.

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Description

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of provisional patent application Ser. No. 61/163,091, filed Mar. 25, 2009, the disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE DISCLOSURE

The present disclosure relates to crowd-sourced map updates and crowd-sourced alternate route recommendations.

BACKGROUND

Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs) often have maps that are out-of-date. Traditional mechanisms for updating the maps of PNDs are cumbersome and inconvenient. More specifically, traditionally companies such as NAVTEQ collect information regarding roads by driving every road using specially equipped cars. These companies then provide the collected information to PND providers for use in their maps. Recently, TomTom has introduced a service referred to as Map Share that enables users of TomTom® PNDs to manually make corrections to their maps and then share their corrections with other users of the TomTom® Map Share service. However, even though the TomTom® Map Share service provides some advantages, it is still cumbersome and burdensome on the users in that they must manually make corrections to their maps. As such, there is a need for a system and method for updating the maps of PNDs that places little, if any, burden on users of the PNDs. In addition, an improved system and method for providing alternate route recommendations to users is needed.

SUMMARY

Systems and methods for providing passive crowd-sourced alternate route recommendations are disclosed. In one embodiment, locations of users of a number of mobile location-aware devices are tracked over time. Upon receiving a request for alternate routes from a requestor, users of mobile location-aware devices that have traveled from a start location identified by the request to a stop location identified by the request are identified. Location histories for the identified users are analyzed to determine one or more routes taken by the users from the start location to the stop location. The one or more routes, or a select subset of the one or more routes, are then returned to the requestor as recommended alternate routes. In addition, one or more characteristics of the recommended alternate routes may be determined and returned to the requestor. For each recommended alternate route, the one or more characteristics may include, for example, an average travel time for the recommended alternate route, an average travel time for the recommended alternate route for a desired time window, a number of users that have previously traveled the recommended alternate route, or the like.

In addition, systems and methods for providing passive crowd-sourced map updates are disclosed. In one embodiment, locations of users of a number of mobile location-aware devices are tracked over time. The locations of the users of the mobile location-aware devices are analyzed with respect to a map data model defining a map to detect a travel pattern that is indicative of an update that should be made to the map. An update that reflects the detected travel pattern is then added to the map via the map data model. In one embodiment, the pattern that is detected is indicative of a new road that is not currently included in the map. As such, a new road corresponding to the detected pattern is added to the map via the map data model. Further, a degree of confidence for the new road may be computed based on frequency of use, how recently the new road has been used, or the like. In addition, a name for the new road may be suggested based on the speed at which users have traveled on the new road, how the new road is related to surrounding roads as represented by the map data model, or the like.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate the scope of the present invention and realize additional aspects thereof after reading the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments in association with the accompanying drawing figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURES

The accompanying drawing figures incorporated in and forming a part of this specification illustrate several aspects of the invention, and together with the description serve to explain the principles of the invention.

FIG. 1 illustrates a system for providing crowd-sourced map updates and crowd-sourced alternate route recommendations according to one embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 2 illustrates the operation of the system of FIG. 1 to track the locations of users of the mobile location-aware devices according to one embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 3 is a flow chart illustrating a process for providing crowd-sourced map updates according to one embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 4 is a more detailed flow chart illustrating a process for providing crowd-sourced map updates according to one embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 5 is a flow chart illustrating a process for detecting a pattern indicative of a new road according to one embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 6 illustrates an exemplary bounding region utilized during the pattern detection process of FIG. 5 according to one embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 7 illustrates an exemplary Graphical User Interface (GUI) for presenting a new road and a degree of confidence for the new road to a user according to one embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 8 illustrates the operation of the system of FIG. 1 to provide crowd-sourced alternate route recommendations according to one embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 9 is a flow chart illustrating a process for generating crowd-sourced alternate route recommendations according to one embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 10 is a block diagram of the server of FIG. 1 according to one embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 11 is a block diagram of one of the mobile location-aware devices of FIG. 1 according to one embodiment of the present disclosure; and

FIG. 12 is a block diagram of a computing device hosting the third-party map function of FIG. 1 according to one embodiment of the present disclosure.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The embodiments set forth below represent the necessary information to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention and illustrate the best mode of practicing the invention. Upon reading the following description in light of the accompanying drawing figures, those skilled in the art will understand the concepts of the invention and will recognize applications of these concepts not particularly addressed herein. It should be understood that these concepts and applications fall within the scope of the disclosure and the accompanying claims.

FIG. 1 illustrates a system 10 for providing passive crowd-sourced map updates, passive crowd-sourced alternate route recommendations, or both according to one embodiment of the present disclosure. As illustrated, the system 10 includes a server 12 and a number of mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N having associated users 16-1 through 16-N. The server 12 and the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N are connected via a network 18. The network 18 is preferably a publicly accessible distributed network such as the Internet. In addition, in this embodiment, the system 10 may also include a third-party map function 20.

The server 12 is a physical server. Note, however, that while only a single server 12 is illustrated for clarity and ease of discussion, the system 10 may include multiple servers 12 that operate in a collaborative manner for purposes of load-sharing and/or redundancy. The server 12 includes a location tracking function 22, a map updating function 24, and an alternate route recommendation function 26, each of which is preferably implemented in software but is not limited thereto. In addition, the server 12 includes a map data model 28 and a location tracking repository 30. The location tracking function 22 generally operates to receive location updates from the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N defining locations of the users 16-1 through 16-N over time and to store corresponding data in the location tracking repository 30. Note that while the description herein refers to the tracking of the locations of the users 16-1 through 16-N, as used herein, the locations of the users 16-1 through 16-N is synonymous with the locations of the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N. The data stored in the location tracking repository 30 may include a location history for each of the users 16-1 through 16-N or anonymized location histories that anonymously record the locations of the users 16-1 through 16-N. Using the user 16-1 of the mobile location-aware device 14-1 as an example, for each location update received from the mobile location-aware device 14-1 for the user 16-1, the location history for the user 16-1 includes the data from the location update (i.e., location and, optionally, a time-stamp, direction of travel, and/or speed of travel). Alternatively, the location history for the user 16-1 may include a number of vectors in the form of <start, stop, time-stamp, direction, speed> derived from the location updates received from the mobile location-aware device 14-1 for the user 16-1.

In another embodiment, anonymized location histories are stored in the location tracking repository 30. More specifically, again using the user 16-1 of the mobile location-aware device 14-1 as an example, the location history of the user 16-1 may be periodically persisted in the location tracking repository 30 as an anonymous location history. The anonymous location history is preferably a location history record or data object that has a new or unique identifier that is not tied back to the user 16-1 or the mobile location-aware device 14-1. For example, at a desired periodic time interval (e.g., hourly, daily, weekly, or the like), the location history of the user 16-1 may be persisted as an anonymous location history that is not tied back to the user 16-1. At the end of each periodic time interval, the location history of the user 16-1 is persisted as a new anonymous location history. Further, each time the location history of the user 16-1 is persisted as an anonymous location history, all of the location data (i.e., previous locations and, if any, time-stamps, directions of travel, and/or speed of travel) may be removed from the location history of the user 16-1.

The map updating function 24 generally operates to analyze the data in the location tracking repository 30 that reflects the locations of the users 16-1 through 16-N of the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N over time in order to detect patterns that are indicative of updates that should be made to a map defined by the map data model 28. The map data model 28 is generally data that defines a map of a geographic area (e.g., North America, the United States of America, North Carolina, or the like). For instance, the map data model 28 may be Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data that defines a map for a geographic area. As discussed below in detail, in the preferred embodiment, the map updating function 24 operates to detect patterns of movement of the users 16-1 through 16-N of the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N that are indicative of new roads that should be added to the map defined by the map data model 28. However, in a similar manner, the map updating function 24 may additionally or alternatively detect other changes that should be made to the map such as, for example, temporary or permanent road closures. For instance, the absence of movement of the users 16-1 through 16-N of the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N over a particular road in the map for at least a threshold amount of time may be used as a detection that the road is closed.

The alternate route recommendation function 26 generally operates to recommend alternate routes to the users 16-1 through 16-N of the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 and 14-N and the third-party map function 20 based on the data in the location tracking repository 30. More specifically, as discussed below, the alternate route recommendation function 26 receives a request for alternate routes from a requestor, where the requestor may be one of the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N or the third-party map function 20. The request identifies a desired start location and a desired stop location. The alternate route recommendation function 26 then uses the data in the location tracking repository 30 to identify a number of different routes previously taken by the users 16-1 through 16-N of the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N from the desired start location to the desired stop location. One or more of the identified routes are then returned to the requestor as recommended alternate routes.

The mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N are generally any type of user devices that are enabled to determine the locations of the users 16-1 through 16-N and provide location updates for the users 16-1 through 16-N to the server 12 via the network 18. For example, each of the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N may be a personal navigation device permanently installed in an automobile, a portable personal navigation device similar to those manufactured and sold by Garmin or TomTom, a mobile smart phone providing personal navigation device functionality such as an Apple® iPhone having a software application providing personal navigation device functionality, or the like. As illustrated, the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N include personal navigation functions 32-1 through 32-N, location reporting functions 34-1 through 34-N, and Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers 36-1 through 36-N. In addition, in this embodiment, the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N include map data models 38-1 through 38-N. Each of the map data models 38-1 through 38-N is a copy of the map data model 28 of the server 12 or a subset of the map data model 28 defining a portion of the map for a relevant geographic area. However, the present disclosure is not limited thereto. In an alternative embodiment, the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N obtain map data from the server 12 as needed.

Using the mobile location-aware device 14-1 as an example, the personal navigation function 32-1 may be implemented in software, hardware, or a combination thereof. The personal navigation function 32-1 generally operates in a manner similar to a traditional personal navigation device. More specifically, the personal navigation function 32-1 provides turn-by-turn directions to the user 16-1 in order to navigate the user 16-1 from a desired start location to a desired stop location. The personal navigation function 32-1 may also provide additional features such as Point-of-Interest (POI) lookup, current traffic conditions, or the like. The location reporting function 34-1 generally operates to provide location updates for the user 16-1 to the server 12.

The third-party map function 20 may be implemented in hardware, software, or a combination thereof. For example, the third-party map function 20 may be a software application hosted by a physical server or farm of physical servers, a user device such as a personal computer, or the like. In general, the third-party map function 20 provides map-based services to users or entities. For example, the third-party map function 20 may be a web-based map service such as, or similar to, the Google® Maps service, the Bing® Maps service, the MapQuest® service, or the like. The third-party map function 20 may interact with the server 12 to obtain map updates and/or alternate routes.

FIG. 2 illustrates the operation of the system 10 of FIG. 1 to track the locations of the users 16-1 through 16-N according to one embodiment of the present disclosure. In this embodiment, tracking is performed passively by obtaining location updates for the users 16-1 through 16-N and storing corresponding data at the server 12. While this discussion uses the mobile location-aware device 14-1 and the user 16-1 as an example, this discussion is equally applicable to the other mobile location-aware devices 14-2 through 14-N and the other users 16-2 through 16-N. As illustrated, the mobile location-aware device 14-1, and more specifically the location reporting function 34-1, first gets a current location of the mobile location-aware device 14-1 (step 1000). In addition to the current location, the location reporting function 34-1 may get a time-stamp that defines the current time, a direction of travel of the mobile location-aware device 14-1, and/or a speed of travel of the mobile location-aware device 14. In the preferred embodiment, the location reporting function 34-1 gets the current location and, optionally, the current time, the direction of travel, and/or the speed of travel from the GPS receiver 36-1. However, the GPS receiver 36-1 is exemplary. Any suitable technology for determining or otherwise obtaining the current location of the mobile location-aware device 14-1 may be used. Next, the location reporting function 34-1 of the mobile location-aware device 14-1 sends a location update to the server 12 (step 1002). The location update includes the current location of the user 16-1, which is the current location of the mobile location-aware device 14-1 obtained from the GPS receiver 36-1. In addition, the location update may obtain a time-stamp defining the time at which the current location was obtained (i.e., the current time), the direction of travel of the mobile location-aware device 14-1 as the direction of travel of the user 16-1, and/or the speed of travel of the mobile location-aware device 14-1 as the speed of travel of the user 16-1.

Upon receiving the location update, the location tracking function 22 stores data in the location tracking repository 30 corresponding to the location update (step 1004). In one embodiment, the location tracking repository 30 includes a location history for each of the users 16-1 through 16-N. As such, in this embodiment, the location update, or more specifically the data included in the location update, is stored in a location history of the user 16-1 maintained in the location tracking repository 30. Alternatively, the location update may be processed to provide a vector from the last location of the user 16-1 to the current location of the user 16-1, where the vector may be <start location, stop location, time-stamp, direction, speed>. In another embodiment, as discussed above, the location tracking function 22 stores anonymized location histories. More specifically, the location tracking function 22 stores location histories for each of the users 16-1 through 16-N. However, periodically (e.g., hourly, daily, weekly, or the like), the location tracking function 22 persists the location histories of the users 16-1 through 16-N as anonymous location histories that are not tied back to the users 16-1 through 16-N and removes the location data (i.e., the previous locations and/or corresponding time-stamps, speeds of travel, and/or directions of travel, or previous vectors) from the location histories of the users 16-1 through 16-N. Anonymization may be performed as a background process. Alternatively, anonymization may be triggered by receipt of location updates. Thus, upon receiving the location update from the mobile location-aware device 14-1, the location tracking function 22 may store the location update in the location history of the user 16-1 and then determine if it is time to anonymize the location history of the user 16-1. If so, the location tracking function 22 removes the location updates from the location history of the user 16-1 and stores the location updates as an anonymous location history that is not tied back to the user 16-1 or the mobile location-aware device 14-1. Note that the most recent location update, most recent vector, or current location of the user 16-1 may be retained in the location history of the user 16-1 after anonymization is performed.

In the same manner, the other mobile location-aware devices 14-2 through 14-N get their current locations and send corresponding location updates to the server 12 (steps 1006 and 1008). In response, the location tracking function 22 stores corresponding data in the location tracking repository 30 for the users 16-2 through 16-N (step 1010). As illustrated, this process continues such that the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N continue to send location updates for the users 16-1 through 16-N to the server 12 over time and corresponding data is stored in the location tracking repository 30 (steps 1012 through 1022).

FIG. 3 illustrates the operation of the map updating function 24 of the server 12 according to one embodiment of the present disclosure. First, the map updating function 24 detects a travel pattern that is indicative of a new road that is not included on the map defined by the map data model 28 (step 2000). More specifically, the map updating function 24 analyzes the data in the location tracking repository 30 as compared to the map data model 28 to detect a pattern of movement of the users 16-1 through 16-N that is indicative of a new road that is not included on the map defined by the map data model 28. In general, a pattern indicative of a new road is a pattern of consistent and frequent travel of the users 16-1 through 16-N, or more specifically at least a subset of the users 16-1 through 16-N, in a manner that is consistent with travel along a road. In addition, the map updating function 24 may compute a degree of confidence for the new road. The degree of confidence is preferably a function of frequency of use and how recently the new road has been used.

Once the new road is detected, the map updating function 24 updates the map to include the new road (step 2002). More specifically, the map updating function 24 adds data defining the new road to the map data model 28. In addition, the map updating function 24 may add the degree of confidence for the new road to the map data model 28. At this point, in one embodiment, the map updating function 24 sends an update to the map data model 28 for the new road and the degree of confidence for the new road, if any, to one or more of the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N. Those mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N that receive the update then add the update to their map data models 38-1 through 38-N. In addition, the map updating function 24 may send the update for the map data model 28 to the third-party map function 20. In an alternative embodiment, rather than immediately updating the map data model 28, the map updating function 24 may flag the update or otherwise send an alert regarding the update to an owner or editor of the map represented by the map data model 28 for verification before the map is officially updated.

FIG. 4 is a more detailed flow chart illustrating the operation of the server 12 to update the map according to one embodiment of the present disclosure. In this embodiment, the location tracking function 22 receives a location update (step 3000). For this discussion, the location update is received from the mobile location-aware device 14-1 for the user 16-1. In response, the location tracking function 22 generates and stores a vector from a previous location of the user 16-1 to a current location of the user 16-1 identified in the location update (step 3002). The previous location of the user 16-1 is the location of the user 16-1 identified in the immediately preceding location update received from the mobile location-aware device 14-1. Again, the vector is preferably in the form of <start location, stop location, time-stamp, direction, speed> but is not limited thereto. “Start location” is the previous location of the user 16-1 identified by the immediately preceding location update for the user 16-1, “stop location” is the current location of the user 16-1 identified in the location update, time-stamp is the timestamp from the corresponding location update, direction is the direction of travel from the location update, and speed is the speed of travel from the location update.

Next, the map updating function 24 determines whether the user 16-1 is currently on a crowd-sourced road (step 3004). As used herein, a crowd-sourced road is a road previously added to the map by the map updating function 24 based on detected patterns of travel, or movement, of the users 16-1 through 16-N. Note, however, that a crowd-sourced road may be promoted to a permanent road in the map data model 28 when, for example, the crowd-sourced road is verified by an operator of the server 12 (i.e., a person) or the degree of confidence of the crowd-sourced road reaches a predefined threshold (e.g., 90% or 100%). The map updating function 24 determines whether the user 16-1 is currently on a crowd-sourced road by comparing the current location of the user 16-1 to the map data model 28. If the user 16-1 is on a crowd-sourced road, the map updating function 24 updates the degree of confidence of the crowd-sourced road (step 3006). Again, the degree of confidence is preferably a function of frequency of use of the crowd-sourced road and how recently the crowd-sourced road has been used. The more frequently and recently the crowd-sourced road has been used by the users 16-1 through 16-N, the higher the degree of confidence for the crowd-sourced road. At this point, the process returns to step 3000 and is repeated for the next received location update.

If the user 16-1 is not on a crowd-sourced road, the map updating function 24 determines whether the user 16-1 is currently on a permanent road (step 3008). As used herein, a permanent road is a road that was originally in the map or a crowd-sourced road added by the map updating function 24 that has been verified or that has a degree of confidence equal to or greater than a predefined threshold degree of confidence. If the user 16-1 is currently on a permanent road, the process returns to step 3000 and is repeated for the next received location update. If the user 16-1 is neither on a crowd-sourced road nor a permanent road, the map updating function 24 determines whether a predefined number (M) of location updates have been received for the user 16-1 since the user 16-1 was last determined to be on a road (i.e., a permanent road or a crowd-sourced road) (step 3010). The number M may be any integer greater than or equal to one (1). If less than M location updates have been received for the user 16-1 since the user 16-1 was last on a road, the process returns to step 3000 and is repeated for the next received location update.

If M location updates have been received for the user 16-1 since the user 16-1 was last on a road, the map updating function 24 performs a pattern detection process for the last M vectors in the location history of the user 16-1 (step 3012). Note that if vectors are not used, the pattern detection process is performed for the last M entries in the location history of the user 16-1. In general, the map updating function 24 obtains the last M vectors from the location history of the user 16-1. In addition, the map updating function 24 obtains other vectors from the location histories stored in the location tracking repository 30 that have start and stop locations in the same vicinity as the start and stop locations of one or more of the last M vectors for the user 16-1. These vectors are then analyzed to determine whether there is a pattern of travel or movement that is indicative of a new road. If so, the map updating function 24 updates the map data model 28 with data defining the new road. In addition, map updates may be sent to one or more of the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N and/or the third-party map function 20. At this point, the process returns to step 3000 and is repeated for the next received location update.

FIG. 5 is a flow chart illustrating step 3012 of FIG. 4 in more detail according to one embodiment of the present disclosure. First, the map updating function 24 gets the last M vectors from the location history of the user 16-1 stored in the location tracking repository 30 (step 4000). The map updating function 24 then establishes a bounding region for the last M vectors (step 4002). The bounding region is generally a geographic region that encompasses the start and stop locations for the last M vectors for the user 16-1. Preferably, the bounding region is established such that the bounding region is, or is approximately, a geographic region defined by a maximum distance (D) from the last M vectors of the user 16-1, as illustrated in FIG. 6.

Returning to FIG. 5, the map updating function 24 then gets all known vectors from the location tracking repository 30 having start locations and stop locations located within the bounding region for the last M vectors of the user 16-1 (step 4004). Alternatively, the map updating function 24 may get a subset of all known vectors from the location tracking repository 30 having start locations and stop locations located within the bounding region for the last M vectors of the user 16-1, such as all known vectors from the location tracking repository 30 having start locations and stop locations within the bounding region for the last M vectors of the user 16-1 that have time-stamps within a defined time window. The defined time window may be a relative time window such as, for example, the last month.

The map updating function 24 then analyzes the known vectors obtained in step 4004 and, optionally, the last M vectors for the user 16-1 to determine whether there is a pattern of travel or movement that is indicative of a new road (step 4006). For example, the known vectors may be filtered to remove those vectors having directions and, optionally, speeds that are inconsistent with the directions and speeds of the last M vectors for the user 16-1. More specifically, for each known vector, the map updating function 24 may determine to filter the known vector if the direction and optionally speed of the known vector are more than a predefined amount of deviation from the direction and optionally speed of a nearest one of the last M vectors for the user 16-1 (i.e., the one of the last M vectors having a start location and/or stop location that is closest to the start location and/or stop location, respectively, of the known vector). If the direction and, if used, the speed of the known vector are within the predefined amount of deviation from the direction and, if used, the speed of the nearest one of the last M vectors for the user 16-1, then the known vector is not filtered. Once filtering is complete, the remaining known vectors, which are referred to herein as the filtered vectors, are counted. If the number of filtered vectors is greater than a predefined threshold number of vectors, then a pattern is detected. Note that this process for detecting a pattern is exemplary and is not intended to limit the scope of the present disclosure. Any suitable pattern recognition technique may be used.

Once the analysis is complete, the map updating function 24 determines whether a pattern that is indicative of a new road has been detected (step 4008). If not, the process ends. If so, the map updating function 24 computes a path for the new road that corresponds to the detected pattern and, optionally, a confidence factor for the new road (step 4010). In one embodiment, the bounding region for the last M vectors for the user 16-1 is divided into a series of sub-regions. For example, each sub-region may include one of the last M vectors for the user 16-1. Then, for each sub-region, the map updating function 24 may identify vectors from the filtered vectors that have start locations within that sub-region and then combine (e.g., average) the start locations for the identified vectors to provide a combined point for the sub-region. Once complete, the combined points for the sub-regions define the path for the new road. Again, the degree of confidence for the new road may be computed as a function of frequency of use by the users 16-1 through 16-N and how recently the new road has been used by the users 16-1 through 16-N.

In addition, the map updating function 24 may suggest a name for the new road. The map updating function 24 may suggest a name of the road based on detected patterns in the movement of users that have traveled the new road, surrounding roads in the map data model 28, or a combination thereof. The detected patterns in movement may be, for example, an average speed of the users that have traveled the road, start and stop patterns, patterns indicating that the new road extends from an existing road, patterns indicating that the new road merges into an existing road, patterns indicating that the new road extends from and merges back into an existing road, or the like. For example, the average speed at which users have traveled the new road may be used to determine whether the new road is likely to be an Interstate Highway, a city street, or the like. Similarly, start and stop patterns may be used to determine that the new road is a city street. In addition or alternatively, the path of the new road may be analyzed with respect to surrounding roads to determine whether the new road is an extension of an existing road, an alternate version of an existing road (e.g., Alternate I-40 as an alternate for I-40).

Lastly, the map updating function 24 updates the map data model 28 to include data defining the new road (step 4012). In addition, a corresponding update may be provided to one or more of the mobile location-aware devices 14-1 through 14-N and/or the third-party map function 20. At this point, the process ends. Again, in an alternative embodiment, rather than immediately updating the map data model 28, the map updating function 24 may flag the update or otherwise send an alert regarding the update to an owner or editor of the map represented by the map data model 28 for verification before the map is officially updated.

FIG. 7 illustrates an exemplary Graphical User Interface (GUI) 40 for presenting a map including a crowd-sourced map update provided by the map updating function 24 of the server 12 according to one embodiment of the present disclosure. As illustrated, the GUI 40 generally presents a map, which is preferably a portion of the map defined by the map data model 28 of the server 12. A new road 42 detected by the map updating function 24 of the server 12 based on a detected travel pattern of the users 16-1 through 16-N is shown in the GUI 40. In one embodiment, an opacity of the new road 42 in the GUI 40 corresponds to a degree of confidence for the new road 42 computed by the map updating function 24. In addition or alternatively, the GUI 40 may include a window providing information for the new road 42 such as, for example, the degree of confidence for the new road 42 and a likely, or suggested name, of the new road 42.

In this example, since the new road 42 diverges from I-40 and rejoins I-40, the map updating function 24 determines that the new road 42 is likely an Alternate I-40. More specifically, based on the map data model 28, the map updating function 24 knows that I-40 is an interstate and that characteristic speeds on I-40 are 55 to 80 mph. The map updating function 24 detects a large number of users diverging from I-40 onto the newly detected road at speeds that are characteristic of merging onto another highway. Then, ten miles later, the map updating function 24 detects a large number of users diverging from this newly detected road back onto I-40 at a speed that is characteristic of merging onto another highway. From these characteristic and passively detected inputs, the map updating function 24 is enabled to determine that the newly detected route is likely to be an “Alternate” or “Business Bypass” of I-40 and therefore suggest “Alternate I-40” as a name for the newly detected road.

FIG. 8 illustrates the operation of the system 10 to recommend alternate routes according to one embodiment of the present disclosure. As illustrated, first, the mobile location-aware device 14-1 sends an alternate route request to the server 12 (step 5000). Note that while the mobile location-aware device 14-1 is the requestor in this discussion, the requestor may alternatively be one of the other mobile location-aware devices 14-2 through 14-N or the third-party map function 20. The alternate route request identifies a desired start location and a desired stop location. More specifically, in one embodiment, the personal navigation function 32-1 sends the alternate route request to the server 12 either automatically in response to a request from the user 16-1 to be navigated from the desired start location to the desired stop location or in response to an explicit request for alternate routes from the user 16-1.

In response to receiving the alternate route request, the alternate route recommendation function 26 of the server 12 generates one or more alternate routes from the desired start location to the desired stop location (step 5002). In general, the alternate route recommendation function 26 utilizes data in the location tracking repository 30 to identify routes previously taken by the users 16-1 through 16-N from the desired start location to the desired stop location. The alternate route recommendation function 26 then selects one or more of the identified routes as alternate routes to recommend, and then returns the alternate routes to the mobile location-aware device 14-1 (step 5004). The personal navigation function 32-1 of the mobile location-aware device 14-1 then utilizes the alternate routes (step 5006). For example, the personal navigation function 32-1 may display the alternate routes to the user 16-1 and enable the user 16-1 to select one of the alternate routes to use. Note that, in an alternative embodiment, rather than immediately sending the alternate routes to the mobile location-aware device 14-1, the recommended routes may be verified, such as by an owner or editor of the map represented by the map data model 28, before the recommended routes are sent to the mobile location-aware device 14-1.

FIG. 9 is a flow chart illustrating the operation of the alternate route recommendation function 26 of the server 12 in more detail according to one embodiment of the present disclosure. First, the alternate route recommendation function 26 receives an alternate route request that identifies a desired start location and a desired stop location (step 6000). In response, the alternate route recommendation function 26 identifies users from the users 16-1 through 16-N that have traveled from the desired start location to the desired stop location (step 6002). Note that the users that have traveled from the desired start location to the desired stop location preferably include users that have started at the desired start location and ended at the desired stop location as well as users that have traveled from or through the desired start location to or through the desired stop location. Optionally, the identified users may be only those users that have traveled from the desired start location to the desired stop location during a desired time window. The desired time window may be a reoccurring time window corresponding to a current time of day (e.g., 10 AM to Noon), a current day of the week (Monday, Weekday, or Weekend), a combination of a current or defined time of day and day of week (e.g., Monday from 10 AM to Noon or Weekdays from 10 AM to Noon), or the like.

The alternate route recommendation function 26 then determines one or more different routes taken by the identified users from the desired start location to the desired stop location (step 6004). More specifically, for each of the identified users, the alternate route recommendation function 26 determines a route taken by the identified user from the desired start location to the desired stop location. The routes taken by the identified users are compared to one another to determine a number of different routes taken by the identified users from the desired start location to the desired stop location.

Next, the alternate route recommendation function 26 determines one or more characteristics for each of the different route(s) (step 6006). For each of the different routes, the one or more characteristics for that route may include, for example, a number of the identified users that took that route, an average travel time for that route, an average travel time for that route for desired time window, or the like. The average travel time for a route is determined based on actual travel times for that route for corresponding users determined based on the location histories of those users. Similarly, the average travel time for a route for the desired time window is determined based on actual travel times for that route for corresponding users that traveled that route during the desired time window. The desired time window may be a reoccurring time window corresponding to a current time of day (e.g., 10 AM to Noon), a current day of the week (Monday, Weekday, or Weekend), a combination of a current or defined time of day and day of week (e.g., Monday from 10 AM to Noon or Weekdays from 10 AM to Noon), or the like. The alternate route recommendation function 26 then returns the one or more different routes and the characteristics of the one or more different routes to the requestor as alternate route recommendations (step 6008). Note that either prior to step 6006 or before returning the recommendations in step 6008, the different routes identified in step 6004 may be filtered or otherwise processed to remove unwanted routes. For example, filtering may be performed to remove a particular route that has already been provided to the user 16-1 (e.g., an optimal route that has already been generated by the personal navigation function 32-1 using a traditional route generation technique).

FIG. 10 is a block diagram of the server 12 according to one embodiment of the present disclosure. As illustrated, the server 12 includes a controller 46 connected to memory 48, one or more secondary storage devices 50, and a communication interface 52 by a bus 54 or similar mechanism. The controller 46 is a microprocessor, digital Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC), Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA), or the like. In this embodiment, the controller 46 is a microprocessor, and the location tracking function 22, the map updating function 24, and the alternate route recommendation function 26 are implemented in software and stored in the memory 48 for execution by the controller 46. Further, the map data model 28 and the location tracking repository 30 may be stored in the one or more secondary storage devices 50. The secondary storage devices 50 are digital data storage devices such as, for example, one or more hard disk drives. The communication interface 52 is a wired or wireless communication interface that communicatively couples the server 12 to the network 18 (FIG. 1). For example, the communication interface 52 may be an Ethernet interface, local wireless interface such as a wireless interface operating according to one of the suite of IEEE 802.11 standards, or the like.

FIG. 11 is a block diagram of the mobile location-aware device 14-1 according to one embodiment of the present disclosure. This discussion is equally applicable to the other mobile location-aware devices 14-2 through 14-N. As illustrated, the mobile location-aware device 14-1 includes a controller 56 connected to memory 58, a communication interface 60, one or more user interface components 62, and the GPS receiver 36-1 by a bus 64 or similar mechanism. The controller 56 is a microprocessor, digital ASIC, FPGA, or the like. In this embodiment, the controller 56 is a microprocessor and the location reporting function 34-1 and, in some implementations, the personal navigation function 32-1 are implemented in software and stored in the memory 58 for execution by the controller 56. In this embodiment, the GPS receiver 36-1 is a hardware component. The communication interface 60 is a wireless communication interface that communicatively couples the mobile location-aware device 14-1 to the network 18 (FIG. 1). For example, the communication interface 60 may be a local wireless interface such as a wireless interface operating according to one of the suite of IEEE 802.11 standards, a mobile communications interface such as a cellular telecommunications interface, or the like. The one or more user interface components 62 include, for example, a touchscreen, a display, one or more user input components (e.g., a keypad), a speaker, or the like, or any combination thereof.

FIG. 12 is a block diagram of a computing device 66 that hosts the third-party map function 20 according to one embodiment of the present disclosure. As illustrated, the computing device 66 includes a controller 68 connected to memory 70, one or more secondary storage devices 72, a communication interface 74, and one or more user interface components 76 by a bus 78 or similar mechanism. The controller 68 is a microprocessor, digital ASIC, FPGA, or the like. In this embodiment, the controller 68 is a microprocessor, and the third-party map function 20 is implemented in software and stored in the memory 70 for execution by the controller 68. The one or more secondary storage devices 72 are digital storage devices such as, for example, one or more hard disk drives. The communication interface 74 is a wired or wireless communication interface that communicatively couples the computing device 66 to the network 18 (FIG. 1). For example, the communication interface 74 may be an Ethernet interface, local wireless interface such as a wireless interface operating according to one of the suite of IEEE 802.11 standards, a mobile communications interface such as a cellular telecommunications interface, or the like. The one or more user interface components 76 include, for example, a touchscreen, a display, one or more user input components (e.g., a keypad), a speaker, or the like, or any combination thereof.

Those skilled in the art will recognize improvements and modifications to the preferred embodiments of the present invention. All such improvements and modifications are considered within the scope of the concepts disclosed herein and the claims that follow.

Claims

1. A method comprising:

tracking locations of a plurality of users of a plurality of mobile location-aware devices over time;
receiving an alternate route request from a requestor, the alternate route request identifying a desired start location and a desired stop location;
identifying one or more users of the plurality of users that have traveled from the desired start location to the desired stop location based on the locations of the plurality of users of the plurality of mobile location-aware devices, wherein the one or more users of the plurality of users includes users other than the requestor;
determining, by a processor, one or more different routes taken by the one or more users from the desired start location to the desired stop location based on the locations of the one or more users; and
providing, by the processor, at least one of the one or more different routes taken by the one or more users from the desired start location to the desired stop location to the requestor as at least one recommended alternate route.

2. The method of claim 1 wherein identifying one or more users of the plurality of users that have traveled from the desired start location to the desired stop location comprises identifying one or more users of the plurality of users that have traveled from the desired start location to the desired stop location during a desired time window.

3. The method of claim 2 wherein the desired time window is a reoccurring time window corresponding to at least one of a group consisting of: a current time of day and a current day of the week.

4. The method of claim 1 further comprising:

determining, for each different route of the at least one of the one or more different routes, a characteristic of the different route; and
providing the characteristic of each different route to the requestor.

5. The method of claim 4 wherein the characteristic of the different route is a number of users of the plurality of users that have traveled the different route.

6. The method of claim 4 wherein the characteristic of the different route is an average travel time for the different route determined based on actual travel times of users of the plurality of users that have traveled the different route.

7. The method of claim 4 wherein the characteristic of the different route is an average travel time for the different route determined based on actual travel times of users of the plurality of users that have traveled the different route during a desired time window.

8. The method of claim 7 wherein the desired time window is a reoccurring time window corresponding to at least one of a group consisting of: a current time of day and a current day of the week.

9. A server comprising:

a communication interface communicatively coupling the server to a plurality of mobile location-aware devices via a network; and
a controller associated with the communication interface and adapted to:
track locations of a plurality of users of the plurality of mobile location-aware devices over time;
receive an alternate route request from a requestor, the alternate route request identifying a desired start location and a desired stop location;
identify one or more users of the plurality of users that have traveled from the desired start location to the desired stop location based on the locations of the plurality of users of the plurality of mobile location-aware devices, wherein the one or more users of the plurality of users includes users other than the requestor;
determine one or more different routes taken by the one or more users from the desired start location to the desired stop location based on the locations of the one or more users; and
provide at least one of the one or more different routes taken by the one or more users from the desired start location to the desired stop location to the requestor as at least one recommended alternate route.

10. The server of claim 9 wherein in order to identify one or more users of the plurality of users that have traveled from the desired start location to the desired stop location, the controller is further adapted to identify one or more users of the plurality of users that have traveled from the desired start location to the desired stop location during a desired time window.

11. The server of claim 10 wherein the desired time window is a reoccurring time window corresponding to at least one of a group consisting of: a current time of day and a current day of the week.

12. The server of claim 9 wherein the controller is further adapted to:

determine, for each different route of the at least one of the one or more different routes, a characteristic of the different route; and
provide the characteristic of each different route to the requestor.

13. The server of claim 12 wherein the characteristic of the different route is a number of users of the plurality of users that have traveled the different route.

14. The server of claim 12 wherein the characteristic of the different route is an average travel time for the different route determined based on actual travel times of users of the plurality of users that have traveled the different route.

15. The server of claim 12 wherein the characteristic of the different route is an average travel time for the different route determined based on actual travel times of users of the plurality of users that have traveled the different route during a desired time window.

16. The server of claim 15 wherein the desired time window is a reoccurring time window corresponding to at least one of a group consisting of: a current time of day and a current day of the week.

17. A non-transitory computer-readable medium storing software for instructing a controller of a server to:

track locations of a plurality of users of a plurality of mobile location-aware devices over time;
receive an alternate route request from a requestor, the alternate route request identifying a desired start location and a desired stop location;
identify one or more users of the plurality of users that have traveled from the desired start location to the desired stop location based on the locations of the plurality of users of the plurality of mobile location-aware devices, wherein the one or more users of the plurality of users includes users other than the requestor;
determine one or more different routes taken by the one or more users from the desired start location to the desired stop location based on the locations of the one or more users; and
provide at least one of the one or more different routes taken by the one or more users from the desired start location to the desired stop location to the requestor as at least one recommended alternate route.

18. The non-transitory computer-readable medium of claim 17 wherein in order to identify one or more users of the plurality of users that have traveled from the desired start location to the desired stop location, the software further instructs the controller to identify one or more users of the plurality of users that have traveled from the desired start location to the desired stop location during a desired time window.

19. The non-transitory computer-readable medium of claim 18 wherein the desired time window is a reoccurring time window corresponding to at least one of a group consisting of: a current time of day and a current day of the week.

20. The non-transitory computer-readable medium of claim 17 wherein the software further instructs the controller to:

determine, for each different route of the at least one of the one or more different routes, a characteristic of the different route; and
provide the characteristic of each different route to the requestor.

21. The non-transitory computer-readable medium of claim 20 wherein the characteristic of the different route is a number of users of the plurality of users that have traveled the different route.

22. The non-transitory computer-readable medium of claim 20 wherein the characteristic of the different route is an average travel time for the different route determined based on actual travel times of users of the plurality of users that have traveled the different route.

23. The non-transitory computer-readable medium of claim 20 wherein the characteristic of the different route is an average travel time for the different route determined based on actual travel times of users of the plurality of users that have traveled the different route during a desired time window.

24. The non-transitory computer-readable medium of claim 23 wherein the desired time window is a reoccurring time window corresponding to at least one of a group consisting of: a current time of day and a current day of the week.

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Patent History

Patent number: 8620532
Type: Grant
Filed: Mar 25, 2010
Date of Patent: Dec 31, 2013
Patent Publication Number: 20120046860
Assignee: Waldeck Technology, LLC (Wilmington, DE)
Inventors: Scott Curtis (Durham, NC), Eric P. Halber (Morrisville, NC), Gregory M. Evans (Raleigh, NC), Steven L. Petersen (Los Gatos, CA)
Primary Examiner: McDieunel Marc
Application Number: 12/731,242